All posts by Maria Fagerland

That’s all folks


Disclaimer: Every time I’ve tried to write this last and final blog post, I’ve started to cry. Which isn’t ideal because I am in a public place. This is my official apology to the customers and workers of Beansmith Coffee and to Aly Schreck and Maria Watson for putting up with me. Be prepared for sap

I’m not sure how I want to start this last and final blog post. I’ve tried to write the opening at least ten times. But I am struggling to come up with a clear and coherent way to describe all of my emotions. Currently I am depressed, overjoyed, elated, excited, tearful, emotionally drained, full (mentally and physically) and so much more.

Today is the final day that we will all probably be in the same room together. It’s been an interesting 4.5 weeks. All 15 of you have grown into my favorite friends. It’s hard to think back to when we were awkward acquaintances all pretending that we weren’t nervous to talk or show our true selves. Look below to see us all in our awkward glory.

Creighton Backpack Journalism group 2016 on day one.
Creighton Backpack Journalism group 2016 on day one.

But here we are 4.5 weeks later. Best friends. Journalist. B-roll experts. Camera aficionados.

Head and Heart Full

After a stressful and difficult past year, I almost thought about not coming on Backpack Journalism. My grandma who turn 89 yesterday has been in and out of the hospital for the past year.

Happy Birthday Grandma. Love you xo
Happy Birthday Grandma. Love you xo

Before I was about to go on the trip my grandma was hospitalized for the second time with pneumonia. I was anxious to go on the trip because I was worried about my grandma and her health.

While in Nogales, my grandma was hospitalized again. I didn’t tell anybody in the group. I also found out the same day that my 18 year old cousin was diagnosed with thyroid cancer. I immediately regretted being there. I wanted to be with my family and with my mom. I discussed with my mom going home early, but she told me that I needed to do this trip. That it was important for me to be apart of this. I listened to my mom and decided to handle how it how I usually deal with things. I threw myself into the program. I distracted myself by reading, cooking with the group, hanging out with everybody and being truly present in Nogales.
While it was hard for me to do, my sadness and tears quickly turned into a smile. I was told by a couple of group members that I am always smiling. While I do this unconsciously, I am smiling because of them. They didn’t even know what was going on, yet they managed to encourage and push me to do and be my best. I think that says a lot about the people who were on the trip. They are some of the best people I’ve met. During our last and final reflection, I told the group that I was thankful for them. These rad kiddos are so wonderful that I can’t even begin to thank them. Even now that our trip is done, I am still left with a constant smile on my face.


Too happy to see the haterz

During the trip something I kept thinking about was what can I do now? So it’s appropriate that Carol asked us this question in our final blog post, What is one thing you can do differently based on what you learned?

After meeting and listening to peoples stories I think the best thing I or anybody else can do is to stay informed and to inform others. It’s important to humanize immigration. It’s a complex human rights issue. I hope that because of what I experienced in Nogales I can be a source of information for those who have question or to challenge their thoughts on the issue. By no means am I an expert, but I feel as though our documentary will encourage others to go and bear witness to the conflict at the border.

While I’m not necessarily satisfied with that I think it is important to realize that I can only do the best I can with what I have with where I’m  at.

I don’t want to end this blog post because that means this is all truly over.

I am thankful for all the individuals that I met. I am thankful for John and Carol for bringing this project to Creighton (you guys are amazing).

If I can take anything away from this experience it is to say yes. Thank you Carol for teaching me to be open and to say yes to things even if it is difficult.

Hasta Luego,


Unanswered questions

There are no easy solutions to immigration. There are issues in every sector and across both sides of the border. The corruption that is the immigration system means that we are far from having a solution.

I can walk away from this project saying that I still don’t understand everything there is to know about immigration. Some of the questions I’m left with include:

I need to know why we have not had immigration reform before this. I need to know why we are constantly seeking the most simplistic answers to the most difficult questions.  I need to know why we cannot band together when we clearly know the wrong of something, but refuse to do anything about it.

I am deeply concerned about my beautiful and wonderful country turning into one I am no longer proud to live in by those who wish to turn us back in time to “ greed is good.”

I can only hope those dearest to me will not drop the ball, but fight for the rights of all who are here to live in this land and respect the people who have come here for a better life.

This experience has drastically changed what I thought about immigration. I went in thinking one thing and left with thinking another.

I encourage whoever is reading this blog to educate themselves on immigration. It is a very real situation that is happening right outside. Seek out sources and individuals that challenge your current way of thinking.

And remember you can’t build a wall against hope.

A symbol of peace and love on the wall in downtown Nogales, Sonora

Those Damn Vans

So, I got behind on blogs, big surprise.  I should’ve listened to Carol. So bear with me as I recount back to the drive home.

If you have been keeping up to date on my blog posts, you know that I get very car sick. So in order to keep my mind off of things, I talk to people. Often times whoever gets stuck with sitting next to me has to talk to me against their will. Special shout out to AJ and Aly for being my seat mates.

So on the morning of our departure back, I put my anti nausea wrist bands on, ate a banana and popped a Dramamine. Well, 30 minutes into the ride I started feeling sick.

At one point we stopped to go to the bathroom (probably because John had to pee) and I thought I was going to vomit. I decided to pop another pill  so that I could hopefully sleep.

Well, as  a former dancer I tend to sleep in very weird and often uncomfortable looking positions. See photo below:


I was restless and unable to sleep. After we ate lunch I felt a little better so I tried to relax. I was able to sleep a little bit and I felt much better.

This trip was so much different than the drive down. The drive down was filled with excitement and nerves. Whereas the trip back was filled with sadness for me. I was thankful for my experiences, but I was thinking about Pepe and the journey that he was on.

By the end of the day you could tell that we were all so tired. At one point some swear words were shared between the vans after we couldn’t find a place to eat in Santa Fe. The experience in Santa Fe has thoroughly scarred me. And for this reason I cannot listen to one of my favorite songs “Santa Fe” anymore. Which is a shame because I really like that song.

The second day of driving started with a delicious brunch. We were all so eager to get back. The rest of the drive consisted of watching 7 Days of Nico and reading our cosmo horoscopes.

When we finally got back I realized that I would never have to ride in one of those Creighton vans ever again and for that I am thankful.


Best of times

  1. Meeting Pepe
  2.  Our family dinners
  3. Going to La Roca for dinner
  4. Cartel (aka the mafia game)
  5. The Drone (aka bae)
  6. Lake Patagonia
  7. Reflection time
  8. All the people we met
  9. Being judged for meditating on a beach
  10. The group


So thankful for these hooligans. I’m grateful for everything that they have taught me about journalism, theology, life and myself. Even though it’s almost over, I know that we all will remain friends. So grateful for you guys everyday.

What do I say?

As  I lay in my bed after a long day of editing, I find myself missing my airless air mattress that I spent two weeks sleeping on.

I miss the dry heat.

I miss the people we encountered.

I miss the car rides (kinda).

I miss Nogales.

When I came home Saturday, I was immediately asked by a friend how the trip went. But I couldn’t for some reason come up with a clear and concise way to answer her question.


Because it’s complicated. The immigration crisis is complicated. There isn’t just two sides to this story. The narrative intertwines and intersects different perspectives creating a web of conflicts, relationships and mistreatment.

I can’t compile a paragraph and just explain everything that happened the past two weeks.

How do I explain my emotions when I am so unsure of what I am feeling? Over the past two weeks I’ve felt, mad, ignorant, ashamed, upset, hopeful, excited and unsure. And I am still processing all the experiences and information that I’ve received.

During our interviews we asked the question, “What would you say to people who think they are not responsible for migrants because they are not US citizens?” The response we received every time was, you need to come to the border, you need to see what life is like for the migrant.

And we did just that.

This trip transformed my thoughts on immigration. Through our interviews and experiences,  immigration was humanized. It is easy to disassociate ourselves from it because of distance or lack of interest.  But it’s important to humanize immigration.

When you have to stare at something directly in the face you begin to break away little pieces in order to find the problem. It’s not an easy thing to face a problem so head on. When you do, you realize that you are apart of the problem. We all are. We are not helping fix the current immigration crisis by how we are currently living. People are arrogant of what is actually going on. You might think you have a grasp on what is happening but it is not until you are there facing it head on that you can truly grasp and attain all the conflicts that are happening just in Nogales.

I think what it ultimately comes down to is that there is no easy solution. There are problems not just in Mexico but in the United States. The problem all across the border are effecting all of us, yes all of us. We are all contributing to it.

So how do I explain that to somebody?

Getting the b-roll.

Well, my hope is that the film will give people just a taste of what is happening and then that will  invite them to learn more and to ask those complicated questions.

A look back

In no apparent order I have posted some of my favorite photos and the memories that are associated with each. Enjoy!

Failing at speaking Spanish with Cat. We did eventually learn what hat was in Spanish…wait what was it now? Sombrero?
Thankful for my teammate Aly Schreck. She is fearless and always up to go to brunch with me. Thank you being my support system on this trip.
Group picture of Backpack journalism crew and Daniela Vargas
Grateful for every single one of these genuine and caring humans. Thank you for not judging my dancing, my sitting positions or my laugh. You guys are the real deal.
Several Backpack group members sitting on the wall behind our guest house in Nogales, Arizona
Remember this day? Me either. First day in Nogales, seems like years ago. Missing our “backyard,” star gazing and playing cartel.
Creighton Backpack Journalism group 2016 on day one.
Day one. An image to capture all of us in our awkward glory. Back when we still didn’t know each other. Oh how times have changed.
Thank you to Carol Zuegner for providing the jams. We appreciate you and your dance moves. Best part of the day was making dinner with these hooligans. AJ was our burger expert.
Before my interview with Isabele Garcia. I was freaking out, but she was so genuine and passionate. Not really sure what I was doing here, but hopefully I didn’t make a fool of myself.
When life gives you a drone, why not take a selfie with it. photo credit: bae (aka the drone)
Holding “Jill” my goddaughter. Her father, John, allowed Aly and I custody of her after our tripod shoe mysteriously went missing (@nicosandi).

Hasta Luego

I haven’t had that many goodbyes to speak of, but I can tell you straight off the bat that I am not a fan.

They feel final and long and drawn out. Overdone. Severe as winter. Hard as bone. At least the goodbyes that I have known were like that.

Saying goodbye to the people of Nogales was painful and forceful. I kept thinking that I didn’t want to go back to Omaha. How could I come back to my reality when I had just witnessed so much suffering?

I didn’t want to say goodbye to the people of Kino or to Pepe. It felt too final. Like there was no hope of ever seeing them again.


On our last day at Kino, I immediately sought out Pepe. Most of our group sat around Pepe as we watched him paint. There was some conversation exchanged but for the most part we all sat there in silence unsure of what to say.

As I am writing this blog post, I am uncertain of where Pepe is. I am constantly thinking and praying for him hoping that he has food, shelter and water.

When it was time to say our final goodbyes I hugged Pepe and thanked him for everything and wished him luck. As I walked away, I looked back at him for what is probably that last time and he said, “Hasta Luego,” which in Spanish means “See ya later.” I smiled but as soon as I turned my head, my smile turned into tears.

Somehow saying that phrase includes the hope and promise that I will indeed see him again soon

But, the likelihood of seeing Pepe again is slim. I know of Pepe’s future plans and I am uncertain of what the outcome will be.

Now that we are back, it is essential that we remain thankful for the moments we were lucky enough to have in Nogales.

It may be difficult to accept, but it is important to remember that all human relationships eventually come to an end.Instead of looking at relationships from a purely physical perspective it is important we realize our relationships are much more.

Although our relationships may end physically, spiritually we are always connected.

Now I’ll be the first to admit this abstract concept is rather difficult to comprehend, however for me it has been a very powerful perspective to adopt.

While saying goodbye may close the physical door, we can always revisit our relationships through our memories.

Your memories are more powerful than you can imagine. Revisit them frequently and you will find that you have the ability to connect with anyone at anytime, regardless of location.

By being thankful we are able to connect with the true essence of life.

Instead of focusing on what you won’t be able to do in the future take sometime and be thankful for what you have already done.

I am thankful for the Kino Border Initiative.

I am thankful for those helping migrants.

I am thankful for meeting Pepe.







I met Pepe on my first day at the Kino Border Initiative. I was going around with a plate of huevos (eggs) and asking if anybody wanted more. I came across a man who gave me a huge smile and asked for some more. We exchanged some small conversation and I was onto serving the next table.

 During clean up he asked me if he could help me clean up the glasses. We stood silently passing each other dirty dishes. I was anxious to talk to him. My spanish is pretty poor. I can hear it and understand it sometimes, but when it comes to speaking, I am awful.
We had to leave Kino to go do some more interviews and get on with there rest of our day. During our interview with Joanna later that day she explained a particular case of brutality that many migrants are subject to. She told the story of a young man who was kicked by border patrol causing nerve pain in parts of his body. I remember hearing the story and thinking that all that man must have wanted was to have a chance at a better something, a better life, a better opportunity, a better whatever. And for some reason, the border patrol harmed this man without having any probable cause to hurt him.
It was hard for me to fathom that people who are government officials would do something like this. It makes me feel uncomfortable that I live in a country that does these inhumane acts.
It wasn’t until later that I discovered we would be interviewing Pepe the man who was kicked by border control.
A group of four stayed back instead of having lunch downtown to stay for the interview with Pepe. Although the interview was all in spanish, I could understand him based on certain words, his body language and his expressions.
Pepe discussed his journey and the experiences and people he met and had to leave behind. He explained his incidents with the mafia and with border control. He told us about how a gun was put to his head. I kept thinking about what I would do if that was me in that situation. I am not sure I would have the strength to continue to seek out a better life if the mafia and the border control were two powerful sources that were there constantly discouraging me to cross.
Pepe has a son who is seven month old. He has never met his son Brandon. But he calls him el gordo because he is chubby. During the whole interview, I felt myself holding back tears. I didn’t want him to see that I was crying, I felt that it would be rude. But when he talked about his son, I had to look away so that my other crew members and Pepe couldn’t see my tears. “I know if I go to America and see my son for one minute all my pain will go away,” he said.
How many times a day do we wish that our pain would go away? How many times a day do we take the easy way out? How many times a day do we wish that we could have a better life than the one that we already have? These questions race through my mind as I walk through Mexico and back to the United States.
After the interview, I couldn’t really concentrate on anything other than Pepe. I went up and did my best to talk to him. I realized that I didn’t even introduce myself to him until we came back later.
When we came back Pepe was at the door and he immediately said Hola Maria. I am not sure how he got my name, but we were able to begin conversing. We stood next to each other making bags filled soap and shampoo for those who were recently deported.
Our assembly line was quick and we tried to race to see who could be done the fastest. While others were setting up for the interview Cat and I talked to Pepe. We taught him some english and he taught us some spanish by pointing to things around us and body parts. He was very happy to talk to us and was always smiling.
He showed us some of the art work he has done at Kino. He told me that I would have to be very patient if I would be able to do what he did. He made flowers out of paper towels and tin foil. He asked Cat and I if we wanted to learn how to do it the next time we were there.
I hope that I can see Pepe again before we leave. Even though he is just one individual, I have made a connection with him with little to know communication.
Later, Nico told Cat and I that Pepe really enjoyed talking to us. We were the first Americans that he had talked to. The rest of the night I was thinking of Pepe and where he was and what he was doing. I was surrounded by people I love and care about while eating a delicious meal and wondering when the last time Pepe was with his family.
I wish I could do so much more for Pepe. There are thousands of Pepe’s out there trying to be with their family and their love ones. I don’t know what the solution is because there is no easy answer. But what I do know is that people need to see the wall, they need to see the migrants, they need to see how it is affecting them and the rest of the border states. Maybe it’s naive of me to think that if people saw the wall they wouldn’t want it to be there anymore.
Something we have been talking about the whole trip is the idea of human dignity. It is so easy to dehumanize the migrants and the wall because we are so far away from it. It’s easy to put it out of your mind to pretend it’s not there.
But we are all on a journey. We must humanize immigration and this current crisis and see the faces behind the issue. It’s much harder to ignore a name or a face than a statistic or a group of people. Those who are trying to migrate to the United States aren’t going because they don’t want to. They are going because they want a chance. A chance to live a life free from violence and oppression. Just like Pepe.

The Dividing Line

Due to our very long and rigorous schedule, I find myself behind on posting my blogs. As soon as something happens during the day I write it down  in my notebook, but as soon as I think about writing the post for the blog, something even more amazing occurs. So please bear with me as I try and explain the current hectic and crazy happenings that are occurring in my brain.

 Tuesday was a really hard and difficult day. We got up at 4:00 a.m. in order to get some broll of the sunset in Nogales. It was a beautiful event to witness. I’ve never gotten up early to watch the sunrise and watching the sun peak up over the corner of the mountains and on the wall was a beautiful experience to witness.
It was interesting to see the actual physical presence of the wall that divides these two countries. But, when I look out at the sunset, all I see is the warmth and joy that is the sun and for those moments, it seems as thought there is no current crisis involving a country that deserves the same basic and natural rights as any human being.
The rest of the day consisted of going to the women shelter, lunch in Nogales, interviews and a walk through Nogales.
I have never felt like a minority in my life. That was the first time I’ve felt out of place in the world and that I didn’t belong. I felt ashamed, embarrassed and scared of who I am and where I came from. That moment of walking through Nogales was one of the first times I’ve felt ashamed and mad at myself for having the life I have.
After we left the commodore, we went to have lunch. In order to get there we took the bus. We all stumbled onto the bus and filled it with our equipment. People from Nogales stared at us just as much as we stared at them. I struggled to make eye contact with those on the bus. I didn’t want to encroach on their environment anymore that I already felt I had. The next individual who boarded the bus was a disheveled looking man. He was caring some of his few belongings in a plastic baggy. He began to ask the occupants of the bus for money.
I watched as many of my fellow students avoided eye contact with the man.  I struggled with what I should do. There was this internal struggle to help the man but to also pretend like I was invisible and I couldn’t see the man and that he couldn’t see me. Later during our evening reflection, we talked about the bus ride. The man went up and talked to Nico. He asked him to translate into English that he needed money. Nico replied that we had no pesos. The man was persistent and continued to ask Nico to ask us for money.
During our reflection, Nico told us his thoughts and feelings he was left with after the bus encounter. He asked us why we acted as thought the man did not seem to exist to us. Why do we treat some individuals who we’ve never met with care and compassion and others with little to no love or care? Where do we make the distinction? I know Nico’s asking of the question wasn’t to make us feel bad or ashamed of what happened, but I did. I felt pretty ashamed of being American.
I know that I will have more experiences with this kind of feeling or interactions. I am wondering what the solution is . I know that there is no easy solution or easy answer to any of this.
I like to think of myself as a very compassionate and giving person, but for what reason did I treat this man as though he should be ignored? I am thinking that maybe it was because he made me uncomfortable, because he was asking for money or because he was dirty. All of these could be reasons for me wanting to not look at him. But If him and I are both on this bus, both trying to do our best in life, then why didn’t I allow him to feel as though he was important.
We are taught in our life that avoiding eye contact with an individual is a sign of disrespect. It is important to show eye contact so that people know that they are being heard. It allows you to make a deeper connection with a person.
Wednesday: blog post to come
Today we got to kind of relax. This was one of the first days that we actually got to do some touristy stuff. We went to the Old Jesuit Mission. It was very pretty and we got some of that b-roll. We also were able to take some photos of each other which was nice. Afterwards we went to this great place for lunch. It was muy delicioso. Our next adventure was a park where we just walked around. And then we took some more broll.
Tonight will be a night to relax and reflect. The trip thus far has been extremely difficult but also very rewarding. It has been great getting to know this wonderful group of people. I am absolutely dreading going back to Omaha. I find myself even now as I am lying on my inflatable mattress that I was at the commodore. I wish I could be there helping in any way I can. But for now, I will take in the relaxing day and get ready for another eventful day in Nogales.




My one and only, Alyson Schreck and I running down the stairs trying to get the b-roll
My one and only, Alyson Schreck and I running down the stairs trying to get the b-roll

Treckking through

Screenshot_2016-05-21-14-07-31I do not do well in car rides. I am anxious, I am restless and I fell sick. Every morning I’ve gotten in the car and I’ve popped two Dramamine and put my anti-nauseau wrist bands on. I try an tell myself that it is all mental, but that doesn’t seem to help the constant waves of nausea and pounding headache I am experiencing.

I know my car sickness is insignificant and stupid. I know it will go away as soon as I get to Nogales, but for so many the constant struggle to find a better life will not end in Nogales. It will continue to follow them as they continue their journey into America or wherever they might end up.
As an individual I am an introvert. Much of the time I am contemplating without ever voicing my opinion. If you know me well you know that I like to be on my own. I find that the time by myself as almost therapeutic. I am able to run through the course of events of that particular day free from interruption. Being stuck in the car for two days has been really fun at time but also I’ve felt trapped. It’s been great getting to chat with people and getting to know more about them, but I am craving my own personal time and space.
I am nervous during this trip that I will struggle expressing my emotion and thoughts. A problem of constantly being in my head is that I tend to overthink and question myself.  know these next two weeks will be filled with challenges. I am hoping to see these challenges as opportunities that will strengthen me and my confidence.